Potters Bar crash apology condemned

EXCLUSIVEBy David GreenA GP whose stepfather died in the Potters Bar rail crash last night accused rail maintenance company, Jarvis, of making a “half-hearted” apology for the accident.


By David Green

A GP whose stepfather died in the Potters Bar rail crash last night accused rail maintenance company, Jarvis, of making a “half-hearted” apology for the accident.

Dr Robert Bawden, whose mother, the writer Nina Bawden, was also seriously injured in the crash, was speaking after Network Rail and Jarvis announced they had accepted legal liability on behalf of the rail industry.

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Dr Bawden, from Wortham, said the company's announcement had fallen short of accepting the blame for the crash, which claimed seven lives.

Faulty points near Potters Bar Station in Hertfordshire caused a West Anglia Great Northern passenger train to derail on May 10, 2002.

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Among the seven people who died was the man Dr Bawden had known as his father since the age of three - Austen Kark, a former managing director of the BBC External Services.

Yesterday's announcement by the two rail companies was welcomed by Dr Bawden, who said his mother, now 79, had been prepared to launch a legal action to try to force them to accept legal liability.

“We had reached the stage where we were prepared to take them to court. It would have taken everything she owned, but she was very brave and prepared to put her head on the block,” he added.

“The financial side was not as important to us as it was to other families and she was prepared to finance an action on their behalf.”

Dr Bawden said his 77-year-old mother had recovered well from most of her injuries, but was still troubled by damage to an ankle.

“She is still frightened to go out and has nightmares about the crash. She can't remember the details, but she knows she was involved in an awful incident,” he added.

Ms Bawden, who spent two months in hospital after being seriously injured in the crash, will be among the bereaved families and injured passengers now making a claim for compensation.

She said: “It's a great relief that liability has been admitted, but it does not diminish the need for a public inquiry.

“Not knowing who has done something is very distressing and it's very important that someone admits what they have done.

“I just wonder why it has taken so long for this announcement. I think a public inquiry is necessary.”

Jarvis was responsible for maintenance on that stretch of track and shortly after the accident it said sabotage could not be ruled out.

However, subsequent interim reports into the accident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found no evidence of sabotage.

Network Rail's predecessor company, Railtrack, was in overall charge of rail infrastructure at the time of the accident.

It said: “Network Rail and Jarvis have now agreed that they should formally accept liability on behalf of the industry for claims brought by the bereaved and injured despite the continuing investigations into the root cause of the accident.

“Network Rail and Jarvis hope that by formalising the liability issue, those affected by the tragedy will gain some level of comfort and assistance.

“In the meantime, the industry parties will continue to work with the HSE as its investigation continues.”

The HSE said the liability announcement would not affect its ongoing investigation into the cause of the crash. It could still bring charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.


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